Nature

Bluebonnets and paintbrushesThis scenic area along the Peder­nales River draws not just hu­mans, but wildlife as well. Watch for white-tailed deer throughout the park.

A variety of bird species live here; see how many you can spot at our bird blind. It’s along the Nature Trail overlooking a small stream.

Wildflowers put on a colorful show through­out the warm months. In the spring, bluebonnets and Indian blankets fill the open spaces.

Two large mammal species played an outsized role in Texas’ history: American bison and Texas longhorn. You can marvel at both in the park.

American bison

At one time, 30 to 60 million bison roamed the North American plains. Then pro­fes­sional hide hunters arrived.

Mother bison with baby by her side, grazing on grass.With their ef­fi­cient wea­pons, they could kill many bison at a time. Thus began the “great slaughter.” From 1874 to 1878, the great south­ern bison herd was nearly eliminated. Estimates from 1888 claimed that less than 1,000 bison remained in North Amer­ica after this near exter­mi­nation.

Toward the end of the great slaughter, a few people began trying to save the bison. Mary Ann Goodnight urged her husband Charles to capture some orphan calves from the southern herd in 1878. These bison calves were raised on the JA Ranch to form the nucleus of the Goodnight Herd, which soon grew to over 200 head.

The Goodnight Herd, as well as four more herds started by others, pro­vided the foundation stock for virtually all bison in North Amer­ica today.

The descendants of these animals make up the Texas State Bison Herd. Bison also roam at Caprock Canyons and San An­gelo state parks. Read more about the Texas State Bison Herd.

Take the Nature Trail or drive to the east end of the park to see the bison. Do not enter their pasture; these are large, wild animals.

Texas longhorns

Texas longhorn cattle were widespread across Texas in the early 1800s. Veterans returned from the Civil War to a poor state and crippled economy. But they found a valuable commodity – mil­lions of wild longhorn cattle roaming the state.

Longhorns fell out of favor in the early 1900s and numbers declined. Western writer J. Frank Dobie thought it was impor­tant to pre­serve a breed that was integral to Texas history. With help from others, he procured a herd of longhorns and donated them to the Texas Parks Board in 1941 as the state herd.

The longhorns here are part of the State of Texas Longhorn Herd. More longhorns live at Copper Breaks, Palo Duro Canyon and San Angelo state parks.

Read more about Texas longhorns in state parks